Those who have experienced the magic of a true Hawaiian Hula show often leave feeling mesmerized and pleased. However, many often question what it takes to be a professional Hula Dancer. The truth is, anyone who decides to enter the realm of professional hula dancing has a great passion for the unique, complex art form, and is eager to share the love of Hula with locals and visitors, alike.
Hula is taught in a halau, which is a school for Hula. Children as young as two attend classes where both Hula Kahiko (ancient style of dance) and Hula ‘Auana (modern style of dance) are taught. Students in a halau form a close bond with their Kumu Hula (teacher) as well as the other students, which they refer to as their hula brothers and sisters. Years upon years of practice provide haumana (hula students) with the discipline, knowledge, and aloha they need to be successful Hula Dancers. Many halau perform at community events and festivals or train for Hula competitions to showcase their learning.
Hula Halau focus on hula basics. It is not uncommon for students to practice a basic skill until their kumu is satisfied with their performance. Students will also practice the same songs and chants repeatedly to perfect them.
Hula dances may be performed with a dancer’s hands, or utilizing implements. The most common implements are the ‘uli’uli (Hawaiian feathered rattles,) pu’ili (split bamboo sticks,) and ipu (hand held calabash gourd.) However, dancers may also utilize kala’au (dancing rhythm sticks,) ‘ili’ili (smooth lava rock castanets,) or a puniu (knee drum.)
Next time you’re gazing at a group of Hula dancers wondering how they learned how to dance, how long they’ve practiced for, or what made them become a professional Hula Dancer, just know it took them a lot of heart and soul as well as many years of dedication and determination. Hula becomes such a great part of a dancer that it becomes who they are instead of what they do. Most importantly, not only does a Hula Dancer share his/her culture and passion with you when they perform for you, but they also joyfully share a piece of themselves.